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Some question COPE tactics

Erin Cunningham
Frederick News Post

9/23/2004 Dave Runkle said a local nonprofit group has taken control of the town, scared away business and acted as an "attack dog" against residents and shop owners.

And Mr. Runkle, who owns CIP Printing, is not alone in his attitude toward Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg. He said a small group is forming to combat what he calls, "a fringe, self-serving, manipulative group."

COPE representatives attended' last week's town meeting, saying noise from Silo Hill Car Wash off of U.S. 15 irritates neighbors. They represented the neighbor who first complained and later called Maryland Department of the Environment. The resident, Nick Mullinix, is also a COPE member.

COPE President Catherine Forrence said the organization is just trying to do what is right for the town.

There is opposition to COPE "because we are trying to encourage the town to fix their problems before they have more development, and when you do that, you hurt people in their left front pocket," she said.

Ms. Forrence said COPE is trying to prevent uncontrolled growth in Emmitsburg, and the desire to invite business to town should come second to what is best for residents.

"It would be if you have them saying that any business can do whatever they want just because we want business," she said.

But Mr. Runkle said the group is scaring away business, a move Mayor James Hoover said will negatively affect the town.

"We certainly don't want to lose any business over this, and we have the potential to do that," Mayor Hoover said.

He said local business owners, and those hoping to move to Emmitsburg, feel harassed by COPE. "It certainly has that appearance."

Kirby Delauter and Carl Athey, who own Silo Hill Car Wash, said they might reconsider moving their construction business, W.F. Delauter, to town. The company would bring 43 jobs.

Mr. Delauter said he is nervous because two town council members also are COPE members: commission president Bill O'Neil and Art Elder.

Mr. Runkle said COPE was instrumental in their election to the commission.

Mr. Elder said COPE did help him with his campaign, but said he was ultimately elected because he is well-known. He has owned Emmitsburg Car Wash for 30 years and said he is trying to stay out of the Silo Hill Car Wash debate. "I'm taking a lot of heat on that."

Mr. Elder also owned CIP Printing before he sold it to Mr. Runkle, who changed the name to CPI Printing.

Mr. O'Neil said both he and Mr. Elder are in favor of more jobs for residents.

"I support anything in Emmitsburg that would bring jobs and money," he said. "But don't tell me I'm not going to be concerned with citizens and noise pollution. That's the problem. The last board just put a rubber stamp on it, and said build."

Mr. Elder said if a vote was taken on Silo Hill he would abstain, although he is not legally required to.

"I have no vested interest," he said. "I would abstain to make it look right."

According to Mr. Elder, only a handful of residents are opposed to COPE.

"Each one that opposes some-thing with COPE is bitter about another reason," he said. "I don't know why anyone would be against COPE. It's for the citizens."

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government